College Sports

Zach Jarrett brings family’s racing competitiveness to the diamond

Charlotte 49ers sophomore outfielder Zach Jarrett is the son and grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale and Ned Jarrett.
Charlotte 49ers sophomore outfielder Zach Jarrett is the son and grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale and Ned Jarrett. SAM ROBERTS/FREEZE FRAME

Located on the west side of the UNC Charlotte campus is the university’s Alan D. Kulwicki Motorsports Lab, representing the future of racing.

But that side of campus also has a strong link to racing’s history at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, home of Charlotte 49ers baseball.

Playing in his sophomore season for the 49ers is Zach Jarrett, son of Dale Jarrett and grandson of Ned Jarrett, both who are enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Zach Jarrett is trying to make a name for himself in his own sport. A rangy outfielder with a little pop in his bat, Jarrett is Charlotte’s leader in home runs (five) and RBIs (20) through 34 games.

“He’s made a big impact just in terms of the type of person he is,” said Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs. “He shows up and gets his work done. He has the respect of the coaching staff and his teammates. He’s becoming a better baseball player.”

A Hickory native, Jarrett was spotted by the Charlotte coaching staff when they recruited former 49ers standout pitcher Tyler Barnette, now a minor-league player in the Chicago White Sox organization and a member of the High Class A Winston-Salem Dash.

Jarrett was an infielder for Hickory High, but when he arrived in Charlotte last year he found a home in left field, a position vacated by Justin Seager after he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners after his junior season.

In 44 games (42 starts) last season, Jarrett batted .248, including hits in his first four collegiate at-bats.

“I never played the outfield in my life,” said Jarrett. “(The coaches) helped me through it. It’s been a lot different, but I enjoy it out there.

“You just have to know where to go all the time. Reads on fly balls are a lot different. You have to know the wind, a new ballpark. Every day is a new day out there.”

Jarrett has spent most of this year in center field. For the season, he has five of Charlotte’s 10 homers.

Hibbs says Jarrett is still finding his way offensively and that he needs to continue finding ways to have “competitive at-bats.” Jarrett perceives that as attacking the right pitch and winning a personal battle with opposing pitchers.

Jarrett says he adopted his work ethic and competitiveness from his father. Dale and Kelley Jarrett, Zach’s mother, are two of UNC Charlotte baseball’s biggest fans, attending games at home and on the road.

Zach Jarrett says the closest he ever was to driving his own race car was getting behind the wheel of go-karts at his home. He says he never had the bug to become part of the third generation of Jarrett race car drivers.

That’s not to say he hasn’t enjoyed the NASCAR lifestyle. He and his mom and his two sisters, Karsyn and Natalee, traveled to plenty of big races. But the number of those trips diminished once Zach became more immersed in his baseball teams’ travels.

One of Zach’s most memorable NASCAR moments came as a young boy in 1999, when his father clinched his only NASCAR Winston Cup championship in Homestead, Fla.

“It was pretty cool, being privileged to grow up in that,” said Jarrett. “Being able to see my dad work hard at something like that really helped me out. I learned from him how to be competitive and that if you want something bad you have to work hard to do it.”

“I loved going to the races,” he said. “On weekends when I got to go, I was excited because we all got to go as a family.”

Softball

Charlotte’s softball team beat Alabama-Birmingham 1-0 in a game nationally televised by Fox Sports Network on April 18. The 49ers lost the second game of the doubleheader, 4-3, making their record 22-21 overall and 8-9 in Conference USA.

Tennis

Teams from Rice knocked Charlotte’s men’s and women’s tennis teams from their Conference USA tournaments last week.

The men’s team reached the tournament semifinals; its 18 wins tied for the second most in program history.

Track and field

Redshirt senior Joann Blakney won three events (100 meters, 200 meters, long jump) at the Charlotte Invitational track and field meet April 17-18.

Also claiming first-place finishes for the women’s team were junior Alvonna Blakney (100 meter hurdles), Kristen Williams (400 meters), junior Morgan Richards (3,000-meter steeplechase) and sophomore Victoria Merriweather (discus). For the men, sophomore Phillip Bryant (400 meters), redshirt junior Getisso Dentamo (3,000-meter steeplechase), and redshirt senior Daniel Freeman (javelin) all won events.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@gmail.com.

Upcoming events

April 26

▪ Men’s golf: at Conference USA Championships, Texarkana, Ark., 8 a.m.

▪ Softball: at Western Kentucky, 1 p.m.

▪ Baseball: at Alabama-Birmingham, 2 p.m.

April 27

▪ Men’s golf: at Conference USA Championships, Texarkana, Ark., 8 a.m.

April 28

▪ Men’s golf: at Conference USA Championships, Texarkana, Ark., 8 a.m.

▪ Baseball: vs. Gardner-Webb, Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, 6 p.m.

▪ Softball: vs. Winthrop, Phillips Softball Complex, 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

May 1

▪ Baseball: vs. Dallas Baptist, Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, 6 p.m.

May 2

▪ Baseball: vs. Dallas Baptist, Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, 2 p.m.

▪ Softball: vs. Florida International, Phillips Softball Complex, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

May 3

▪ Softball: vs. Florida International, Phillips Softball Complex, 12 p.m.

▪ Baseball: vs. Dallas Baptist, Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, 1 p.m.

Source: www.charlotte49ers.com

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